Aughton Road Race

Words by Adam Baines, photos by Ellen Isherwood.

It has been said that ‘La Vuelta’, for some, is the race of redemption. An opportunity for those pros who’ve had an ‘anno horribilis’ to salvage something from a season they’d rather forget.

So, in that vein, today was my Vuelta. John MacKellar and I were lining up in the rescheduled Aughton Road Race, just outside of Lancaster. After a pretty terrible year on the bike I was hoping to finish the season with a top ten result. John, having just returned from some well-earned R&R said he was just hoping to get around.

When we arrived at the race HQ, it couldn’t have been any more different from the Vuelta if we tried. Race HQ today was a quaint little Scout hut on the side of a hill, which looked like it hadn’t seen any sunlight or funding since it was built (I’m guessing circa 1973). It appeared to be held together with mould and moss, which was understandable given the current weather conditions. Far from the 30+ degrees of Spain we were faced with torrential sideways rain and temperatures just breaking into double figures.

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Not the Vuelta, but very pretty in its own right.

 

But despite the basic facilities and grim Northern weather, I was filled with fun, nostalgic thoughts of cub camps at Waddecar and Saturday morning school rugby. Mixed together with the familiar faces of the North West racing scene, I was very happy to be there and looking forward to getting stuck in.

At the race briefing it soon became apparent that the majority of the 60 names on the start list didn’t feel the same way. A disappointing turnout of 22 riders made up the full field. The others had obviously decided the lure of televised Spanish sun was more appealing.

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The committed 22 that were up for a race in tough conditions.

 

In my mind the small turnout meant that those who had taken to the start line were committed and this wasn’t going to be an easy race. The race consisted of 8 laps of a 7-mile circuit. From the start line, the route hit a fast descent which was followed by an undulating section before a long, stepped climb into a block headwind back up to the finish. There were no real areas where you could relax. The reduced field contained some strong lads so I just had a feeling it would split to pieces. Any early breaks would be difficult to bring back with such a small peleton, so I decided I was going to get involved straight away.

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Getting stuck in early

When the flag dropped I soon found myself on the front, I put in a bit of effort to get a small gap and see who would join me. I was quickly shut down and a Croston Velo lad rode over the top and got away. He was left dangling for a short time before we hit the steepest part of the climb, a 300m stretch of road at 10% (a stretch I would later come to hate!). A few of the skinny guys went after him and it was soon all back together again. Straight away Dan Ellis from Bella in Sella countered and I was ready for it. We went for it, each doing turns full gas. We were increasing the gap and things were looking promising. Carl Potter from Lancs Road Club joined us and we were going hard but it seemed like the peleton were catching us. The peleton thought they had us and they eased off. This was the moment. The move. In that split second, we went again and this time we made sure we got away. We soon turned left onto the finishing straight, gained a tailwind and really started to make the break.

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Getting the move going

Half a lap later we were joined by Phil Jones (Transition Race Team), Dan Dry (Lancaster Uni CC) and a local racing legend Karl Smith (Bott Cycles Race team). We were now 6 and working well. The next few laps were the hardest miles I’ve done for quite a long time and I began to suffer! With the realisation we had another 5 laps to go I decided I needed to conserve some energy and miss a few turns just to stay in the break.

This obviously didn’t go down to well with some of the others but I reassured the complainers that despite my extended recoveries, I wouldn’t be contesting the win, so there was no need for them to worry! I did what I could, when I could.

With 4 laps to go, we were told that the bunch behind had been decimated and there were 3 riders chasing at 2 minutes back, with a few riders in 1’s and 2’s behind them. At that point the pace relaxed but it was still fast enough to maintain the gap but now at a pace I could contribute to fully. However, despite this reduced pace, the fact I hadn’t raced since June was starting to take its toll. I could only hope that the attacks wouldn’t start until the last lap.

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John in a group behind before it completely broke up

With just over a lap to go we were heading into the headwind about to hit the steepest part of the climb. I was on Phil’s wheel when his chain dropped, there was a split second when I waited for him just to see if I could help him but by then a small gap had opened to the other 4 lads. I had to chase back on and reached them just as we hit that steep section. It was at this point the attacks began and I was doomed! There was nothing I could do, I didn’t have anything left in my legs to go with the attacks and they were soon up the road. My only hope was Phil would come past and I could jump on his wheel.

But when Phil did appear, he flew past me like a train. In fact, I’d have had more chance of jumping on the London to Glasgow Express from a platform in Carnforth Station than getting on Phil’s wheel. I was now faced with a tough solo lap to hang on to 6th position. I tried my best to measure my effort so that I wouldn’t completely implode on the headwind climb. It was a long, lonely, painful lap and as I turned onto the finishing straight the first of 2 chasers passed me. Finally, with 100m to go, despite my best efforts, I was passed again and had fallen to my finishing position of 8th.

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It was almost a bitter pill to swallow but that’s racing. I’d achieved my goal and I loved every minute of it. John put in a great post-holiday performance and finished not too far behind me in 10th

Congratulations to the winner Dan Dry who looked strongest all day, Dan Ellis who came in second and Phil Jones who put in a heroic effort to chase back on after his mechanical and finished 3rd.

A huge thank you to Graham Jones and his team of helpers from Lune Valley CC for not giving up on the race and turning out in the grim conditions to make the event happen.

Thanks to all the BC Commissaires for all their work this year and to the ever present Ellen Isherwood for the wonderful photos.

Thanks to our sponsors Chronomaster wristwatches, Leisure Lakes Bikes, Specialized, OTE Sports and Pearson Ferrier Estate Agents.

And from me, the last one of 2018, always remember to #PDH

Posted in Blogs

Team Chronomaster Road Race

by Stephen Feeney

On the 12th August, some 12 months after I’d organised our Team’s inaugural road race (with the assistance of many willing volunteers and friends) our second promotion of the 2018 season, our road race on the hilly Bashall Eaves ‘long’ circuit, took place.

This year Joe Bowers took over as race organiser meaning I would have the chance to capitalise on my usual end of season decent form. Unfortunately, although I was still on reasonable form, I was a little unsure of my condition going into the race due to a lack of races in the weeks preceding our event. However, I did appear to be in better condition than many of my teammates, several of them having already called an end to their successful seasons!

On the eve of the race, as I began packing my kit and start preparing (with my Guinness supper). the tragic news of the untimely passing of popular local cyclist Richard Taylor of Harry Middleton CC started to break. Just the day before he had posted about his latest exploits whilst on a cycling holiday (120 miles riding across the mountains of France with a rucksack on!) and my reaction was one of shock and disbelief.

Suddenly the prospect of racing seemed far from my thoughts, and undoubtedly many of the entrants to our race felt the same.

Richard was well known throughout the local race scene. His fondness for a post ride tipple never detracted from his obvious determination and commitment to the sport. He also gave back where he could and marshalled our Bolton by Bowland Road Race in June.

I can’t remember exactly when I first met Richard but I remember his warmth and immediately liking him and his attitude! I can recall racing with him a lot in 2017, a year in which he (eventually) achieved his first category racing licence.

Richard and me last season

He seemed to have more than his fair share of bad luck in races, punctures being a particular ‘Achilles heel’! Indeed, I can remember speaking to him during last year’s Chronomaster Road Race. I was marshalling and he’d had to abandon the event having punctured. To compound his woes, he’d actually punctured on a wheel he’d borrowed to replace his own punctured wheel. His spirit was not dampened, however, and he set off back to the headquarters stating his intention to stop at a shop en route and pick up some beers!

I can remember racing with him on the Manchester 2 day last year. He was close to his achieving his first category licence and looking for a good overall finish. His legendary, fearless ‘knee down’ cornering skills, coupled with some powerful riding between the twisty bits, had left him in a podium position going into the final hilly stage at Oakenclough. This perhaps not Richard’s favourite terrain.

As Richard began to feel the pressure on the main climb on the last couple of laps I did my best to ‘look after’ him. Offering encouragement and filling in the gaps where he was struggling to hold a wheel up the steep bit. Going into the last couple miles he was comfortable in what remained of the front group and poised to take a high position when he yet again suffered an untimely puncture that he would be unable to recover from.

That year Richard carried on racing until November, travelling around the country to find races, and did manage to get that first category licence. I’d kept in touch with him to keep abreast of his progress during that time and his commitment never seemed to wain.

At one time, there was talk of him joining our ranks. He already got on well with all of us and it’d have been great to have him in our team but I’m sure that applied to any club that he may have been connected with. However, unsurprisingly, he did have some very good friendships amongst his own team mates.

I am sure that most people that knew Richard will have several humorous accounts of times spent with him!

There were plenty of sad faces and tears at the Headquarters on the morning of the race as everyone tried to go about the business of bike racing.

A minutes silence to remember Richard was held before the race and his teammates, along with our own Tom Hanlon, former team mate and close friend of Richard, led the bunch during the neutralised procession.

As the race started, it was clear that it would be business as usual. This was appropriate and in keeping with Richard’s own mantra of hard pedalling. He had become synonymous with his own hashtag #pdh (pedal dead hard).

My tactic, based on recent races around Bashall Eaves, was to ride conservatively and try and keep with the leaders in what would no doubt an attritional race.

Also racing for Team Chronomaster, with Tom and I, were John McKellar, Warren Gell and Pete Lindfield.

Having spoken with my teammates before the race I believed that we were all looking to adopt a conservative approach. However, I was soon to be surprised!

Perhaps riding on pure emotion (coupled with not inconsiderable ability) Tom attacked from the gun taking with him Luke Jackson from Harry Middleton CC. The duo gave their all and managed to hold off a fast chasing group for many miles before being captured. Unfortunately for Tom, this early exploit, and subsequent emptying of the tank, proved terminal to his race ambitions. To be honest, I was impressed that he had even had the motivation to start never mind race so aggressively!

Pete was feeling the effects of the time trial he’d raced the previous day and lost contact with the rapidly diminishing front group.

Every time the race hit the a climb the pressure went on, attacks were launched, gaps appeared and riders were dropped.

John, Warren and I kept to the game plan and with a couple of laps to go (the race covered 5 laps of an 11 mile circuit) we were in what remained of the bunch.

B38 Underpin team had been very active all race sending riders up the road and marking chase groups and eventually Jude Taylor, 2nd in this race last year, was clear.

With around 15 miles to go a chase group formed. I remember watching as it began to move clear, it wasn’t a flat out move but seemed to go unchecked for long enough for them to get a small gap. I toyed with trying to get across to the group but as most moves hadn’t managed to get clear I thought it would be reeled in. Unfortunately, I was wrong and a combination of strong riders and commitment ensured the groups escape and eventual capture of lone leader Jude.

As the finish approached, a lead group of 7 riders looked set to contest the victory with the bunch left to sprint for the minor places.

In an amazingly close sprint finish Chris Booth took the victory ahead of Team Crimson’s Tarn Fynn.

I managed to take 3rd in the bunch sprint (only 23 riders remained in the bunch) for 10th place. Warren and John had lost contact with the bunch in the closing stages of the race.

I would like to give a special mention to Joe Bowers for all his hard work organising this event. He appeared incredibly calm both leading up to and during the race. A lot calmer than I had felt the previous year!

Thanks to all the officials and helpers without whom these events would simply not happen!

Thanks again to Ellen Isherwood for the amazing photos.

Our 3rd event had proved a success and, with it being a particularly tough one, I’m sure Richard would have approved. Congratulations to Chris Booth (Salt Ayre Cog Set) on the win.

Posted in Blogs

NW Regional Championship Road Race – Cold Dark North / Lune CC

By Joe Bowers

Jon, Tom and I lined up in the wind and rain for the 2018 NW Regional Championships last Sunday. The race was being held over 9 laps of the Capernwray circuit, featuring 10 times up Borwick Hill a 1.26km climb at 7%.

After a good early season I was just working my way back to race fitness after a couple of months with not much racing. The course profile coupled with the weather conditions was always going to make for tough race and I was just hoping to get round! From experience I knew that it was probably going to be just as hard in the bunch as off the front so I decided to be as active as possible at the start of the race and try and get away.

I knew the race was going to kick off on the main climb so just before the second ascent of Borwick hill I’d chipped off the front with a couple of riders. The hope was to get onto the climb with a few seconds advantage and then jump on the back of any moves which went. Looking behind I saw James Gullen (JLT Condor) and Cam Jeffers (Saint Piran) attacking on the climb as they came past I tried to get on their wheel but couldn’t hold the pace.

Over the top of the climb I was 7 th wheel on the road. There were 6 up front including Gullen and Jeffers, me in the middle and the bunch behind. As I looked back I saw Jon trying to bridge across to me with Mike Ashurst (Bioracer) on his wheel. I sat up and waited for them and we joined up and formed a small chasing group.

For the next 2.5 hours we rode as a 3 man group chasing the leaders. We realised that we weren’t going to catch the front group but time-checks from behind told us we had around 3-4 minutes gap on the main bunch. We pushed on ticking off the laps, with two to go I was starting to suffer with fatigue and twinges of cramp in the left leg. Going into the final climb I think our finishing order was decided: Jon clearly the strongest rode off on the climb finishing 7 th overall, Mike pulled away from me for 8 th and I rolled in 9 th happy to get it over with!

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Kudos to everyone who battled on and finished on a challenging day. Well done to the 6 leaders for attacking and making the race and to James Gullen on a good win; his 4th Regional Championship victory I believe. Finally thanks to the organisers, marshals and anyone else involved in putting on the race – much appreciated by all.

Photos by Ellen Isherwood: https://www.flickr.com/photos/100713057@N05/albums/72157694555566980

Posted in Blogs

Pedal Power Road Race Report

By Jonathan Fowles.

The Pedal Power road race took place on Saturday near West Calder in Scotland. Whilst cruising to the start line and chatting to a few Ribble riders, it turned out that the course had been adapted from last year and was now 6 laps of a rolling circuit, with fast exposed sections and a headwind uphill drag to the finish line.

This year I’ve seen too many races where the break escapes early on, never to be seen again, and this time I was determined to be in it! My plans were put on hold when in the first few km a crash ahead of me sprayed bodies all over the road; I managed to negotiate the debris and followed another rider to get back to the peloton. Two riders were out front, and using the momentum from chasing back into the group I moved to the front and then attacked.

At this stage my legs didn’t feel so good, I had a gap on the peloton but my progress towards the two up front was slow. A Metaltek-Kuota rider came past me on his way to the two ahead, and I used a small ramp to close the gap onto his wheel and eventually make it across to the leaders. We now had a group of 4, and got in a line (TTT style) and hit the pace as hard as we could.

Towards the end of the first lap our break had grown to seven riders, consisting of two Ribble riders (John Archibald and Will Brown), two Dooley’s cycles riders, the Metaltek-Kuota rider and one rider from The Racers. We had about a minute advantage to the peloton, and settled down to work together and open out the gap as much as we could.

’d like to say that the race was action packed, but for the next 4 laps we just carried on working together and keeping our gap to those behind at just over a minute. The updates from the motorbike were telling us that 12 riders were chasing, but by the start of the fifth lap three had attacked from this and our gap extended so we knew that the race had effectively self destructed behind.

Our pace was hard, and combined with the rolling and windy nature of the course the break was showing signs of tiring. One of the Dooley’s riders had been sitting on, and eventually got shelled out the rear. I found I had an advantage on the draggy uphill stretch to the finish line so I tried to ramp up the pace here just to tire the break out a bit further. Although, I wasn’t so keen when some of the bigger lads started hitting the pace on the downhills!

Towards the end of the fifth lap, John attacked on a fast downhill section. He was the biggest threat in this group and I knew I had to follow his moves! I managed to get across to him, and offered a wheel to stay away from the others, but they closed back in on us. It wasn’t going to be good if our group started attacking each other this far from the finish, and we risked the chasers catching us.

The little attacks continued until we reached the drag to the finish line, I got to the front and ramped up the pace. Turning around, I had John on my wheel and just two others behind him. We reached the top, and knew that we had to work together for as much of the final lap as possible.

We made it to the last few km and John started putting in attacks on the fast downhill sections and out of corners. Each time I would have to push hard to get back on his wheel, and these attacks meant we were now down to three riders as we approached the 1km to go sign.

I attacked with just under 1km to go, and initially opened a gap, but glancing back could see the other rider coming over to me. I eased off the pace, and as he tried to pass me, jumped back on his wheel. I then sprinted past him in the final 50m to take the win!!

Credit: Neil Macdougall Cycling

I’m super pleased to get a win, and hopefully the legs will carry on working for the rest of the season!

Credit to Neil Macdougall for the photo above. If you’d like to check out the full album, click here.

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Posted in Blogs, Results and Reports

The Tour of Witheridge Moor – A piece of cake*

Words by John MacKellar

After no more than 38 minutes of racing the whole peloton had been pulled in to a lay-by like my maths teacher had done to us years ago. As in both scenarios we were all there for a bollocking and the guilty ones new exactly who they were, on this occasion it was nothing to do with me.

I had done the Tour of Witheridge Moor last year with reasonable success. The course is long at 43 km, three left hand bends forming a triangle and one sizeable climb that takes you out of Tiverton and on to Witheridge Moor and the rest is either up or down. The race is organised by Exeter Wheelers, who are very active in the area, so it’s almost guaranteed to be a good day. Last year it had rained overnight and it was greasy on the descents but this year it was going to be baking hot.

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When collecting my race number I saw Ali Stubbs (Royal Navy), last years winner, pulling his bike out of the car. I’d seen his name on the sheet again and as nice a lad he is, I was hoping that he wouldn’t turn up. 

We were just rolling out the village and I heard someone say “Alright John.” It was Phil Blundell (High Peak Cycles) who’d dragged his mate along for a rolling course. Definitely not how I’d describe the 1,300m of climbing packed in to an 80km course.

We negotiated the dodgy corners on the first two descents which took a pair of riders down last year and we hit the first climb. Up there, testing everyone’s legs was Ali. We rolled over the top of the course and the descent into Tiverton was a dead straight drop at 80 kmh. From Tiverton the road climbs out of town for 8km and the pace was just starting to pick up when we got ushered into the lay-by.

The reason we had been pulled over and the race stopped was because too many riders were riding on the wrong side of the road and causing a danger. The chief commissaire, ultimately, is the person who is responsible for the safety of all 60 of us and riding dangerously, isn’t clever, it’s just a bike race. Barking at us like my old maths teacher seemed to have the desired result and the racing resumed.

*I say, a piece of cake because up until now the pace had been tolerable for pretty much everyone in the race. The race had not exploded like last year. My legs felt good and I felt strong on the climbs. This ease and the good sensations would be put to an end.

On the final section of the course not much happened, I just made sure that I was right on the front on the descent so that if it all kicked off, I’d be well-placed to jump on any moves.

We had allowed one lone escapee out of the bunch and he had been off the front for at least 10km. The Pontypool rider was just in sight and he still had an advantage as we went over the finish line and started our second and final lap. But when he got to the feed zone in Witheridge Village, he made a meal of picking up a bottle and came to a complete stand still. However, he still managed to leave Witheridge with a handful of seconds advantage.

We came through the feed zone and loads of riders were picking up a 2nd or 3rd bottle and there was a couple of attacks from riders that were self-sufficient. It stretched us out and brought us almost within touching distance of the race leader. Not quite, as 2 cars had joined in our race and were stuck between the leader and us. The cars were unable to pass the race leader and were preventing the peloton from catching him.

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Coming through the feed zone.  One of the many OTE gels consumed. 

We went down the first of the dodgy descents and the cars were still in our race, but the commissaries managed to get rid of them at the top of the next rise. Clear road just in time for the second biggest climb of the course.

I was watching the strong lads but I was a bit further back than I’d have liked to have been. Three nearly got away here this time last year. Ali was off the front and a few were chasing with him I was out the saddle, passing riders, moving up. We caught and passed the escapee. It wasn’t the move but we had reduced the bunch and the strongest had moved towards the front.

The easy race that had been the first lap was over. I was now among the first few wheels as we started climbing out of Tiverton for the final time. A long climb. Each time the road steepened someone would up the pace. At 1km from the top of the climb, Ali went again!. But this time he went hard. I was on his wheel, we rounded the corner and the road kicked up again. “Shit!” I thought. I tried to hold Ali’s wheel, but I was slipping back. It looked like David Kovacs (Team KTM) attacked over the top. This was the split! We reached the top of the climb. A group of 10 was slipping away!

On the flat part at the top, 3 of us carried on chasing hard. Kovacs was back in the group ahead. We hit the descent even harder and just latched on to the lead bunch as we rolled in to Rackenford village. There was about 20km still to go and that effort had put me in the red, my legs were on fire.

Then we took the left hander and headed up the back straight of the course. It was 10km from that turn to the finish. Some riders were rolling through, but others were sitting on trying to save their legs for the finish.

With 5 km to go Andrew Whittemore (Exeter Wheelers) attacked and everyone just looked around, no one wanted to chase. We all looked at each other, no one wanting to undertake the task of neutralising this dangerous move, the gap grew.

We took the final left hand hander, and I was near the front of the group. After this, two descents and the steep kicker up to the finish.  The Wheelers rider was maintaining his gap and nobody was chasing. I knew the final descent was on a good surface and could be ridden without touching the brakes. So I went first, full aero tuck and reached the bottom of the kicker at the front. Then the sprinting began. Maybe I had a bit more left in the legs then at Oakenclough, but not much. The sprinters passed and I rolled in 8th – the same place as last year.

Considering the battle to get in to that last group and how destroyed I felt, I was pleased with that result and the few points that came with it. Moreover, I was buzzing about the racing that had taken place on that final lap.

Thanks to all the organisers and marshals from Exeter Wheelers who put on an excellent event on a fantastic course. Well done to Andrew Whittemore for the solo win.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1751398407

Posted in Blogs

Alan Goddard Memorial Road Race

By Kris Zentek.

You only needed to look at the headlines to understand why I wanted to stay in bed this morning…

Telegraph: “Danger to life warning as intense storms halt Britain’s heatwave”
BBC: “Storms sweep in as temperatures cool”
Express: “Heat to spark EXPLOSIVE  rain and lightning in 48 hour storm DOWNPOUR”

But…it’s hard enough these days to get into any race, so up I get at 6am, and set off for Shropshire. Ellerdine, to be specific, an hours drive away. Todays race is the cat 2/3/4 Alan Goddard Memorial Road Race, on a course that wouldn’t look out of place in Belgium. 6 laps of an 11 mile triangle two sides being wide A roads. If there was ever a race designed for apocalyptic weather conditions, this was it.

Instead of warming up, I decide to sit in the car and watch the rain run down the windscreen. When guilt gets the better of me, I rub winter embrocation on my legs. The next best thing to warmed up muscles, is cold muscles covered by burning skin. Just remember to do your chamois cream *before*, and not *after*.

Kit and attire…I have my commuter with me. No fricken’ chance am I riding my best bike after I spent 2 hours cleaning and polishing it yesterday. I am also wearing my Bioracer Tempest kit – waterproof and thermal – perfect for what was coming.

The commissaires…keen not to get too wet…choose the very last minute to hold the briefing. Everyone is hiding in cars or under trees, and as the whistle gets blown everyone rushes to the pre-race talk…which is uttered at record speed. To paraphrase: “weathers sh*t, don’t be naughty, go go go!”

It was always going to be a fast race, but as we hit the main road I find myself at the back with Steve Fidler talking about his seat-post that keeps inexplicably dropping. It’s still neutralized I think, but within 100 yards we find ourselves 5 bike lengths off the back, pushing 1000w to try and get back on. We manage it, and decide that that counts as a proper warmup.

My tactic is to sit RIGHT at the back, RIGHT out of trouble. It’s hard to see what’s going on up front, but we feel the elastic effect alright. Pottering along nicely, and then without any prior warning you are smashing out 12w/kg just to stay on the wheel. We lose a rider here and there…

Lap 2, still at the back. Into the headwind back straight, Steve Fidler selects the biggest gear he has and attacks from the back. By the time he passes the front of the bunch he’s hit 88mph and disappears up the road. I refuse to move, thinking it will get brought back – knowing full well that if it does, I’m not moving from the back of the bunch anyway.

A lap later and there is still no sign. I find out that he’s a minute up the road with two others, and the front of the bunch are attacking each other trying to get across. This kind of explains why I’m still having to do a sprint effort every couple of minutes.

Into lap 5. The break is still a minute up the road, and the guys leading the chase are starting to get pissed off with the attacking and negative racing. It’s stopped raining now, and I no longer fear the storm of death. I start to move up a bit. We get onto the headwind back straight, and as the latest attack and chase-down is done, I make my move.

I don’t make a song and dance about it – no out-of-the-saddle-throwing-the-bike-everywhere-screaming-DEATH-OR-GLORY! – just in the saddle, turning the screw. The front let me go, and I push a bit harder. I see there is someone already up ahead – I just need to get to him ASAP. I look behind expecting to see a long line of confused expressions looking back at me, but instead I see one other person, and an increasing amount of fresh air in-between.

I do a bit more, and as I flick my elbow, this chap who I don’t know comes past me like a bat out of hell. Another sprint effort is required, and a sit there swinging off his wheel. Expecting him to explode at any minute I move out, but he keeps going. This guy is strong! We catch the lone escapee up the road, Chris Humphries. We fly past him, he jumps on, and we start to work together to catch the break.

We look back, and the bunch are just a few seconds behind, and they look stretched out. We can see riders are trying to jump across, and this could be bad for us…

We get to the turn, and the bunch are still right on our heels, but we have kept a gap. We are probably half way between them and the three up front. We manage to make contact with them just as we hit the finish area for the last lap. The bell rings furiously, the bunch still right behind us. We can see that the breakaway are feeling the effects of staying away for 3 laps, but we all know what we need to do to make this stick. We get to work, and are soon ticking through.

Every time I look behind, the bunch seem to be getting closer and closer. At one point, they must have been 50 yards behind us, but we kept going as hard as we could. We hit the roundabout into the headwind, still with a gap. A few more all-out efforts from each of us, and the gap increases. And keep increasing. We’ve managed to snap the elastic, and we hit the turn for the last 2 miles.

The bunch are probably 15 seconds behind us, and covering the entire road. That can mean they have either sat up, or are all attacking. We keep going, and start to believe we can make it. I am at the front, as is my usual luck, thinking we are further out than we really are. I’m really suffering at this point and I can’t sprint for toffee. But given that my plan was to sit at the back and stay out of trouble, I feel happy about getting across to the break and coming away with some points.

We round a corner and we see the finish line. As I realise this, the sprint starts from a LONG way out. Dave Rowlands, the guy who attacked with me, takes the win from Steve Fidler by half a wheel. Next rolls in the rest of the early breakaway, Grant Bingham and Danny Smith. I manage to outsprint Chris Humphries for 5th (if you can even call it a sprint). We have timing chips on the bikes, and as I am writing this, I can see that the bunch were 18 seconds behind Chris.

Final results

  1. David Rowlands
  2. Steven Fidler – 3C Payment sports
  3. Grant Bigham – Velo Runner
  4. Danny Smith – RST/Cycle Division Racing Team
  5. Kristian Zentek – Team Chronomaster
  6. Christopher Humphries – St Helens CRC
  7. Jordan Hill – Leek CC
  8. Nick Morris – Clee Cycles
  9. George Mills-Keeling – Pro Vision Race Team
  10. Ryan Morley – Royal Air Force CA
  11. Jamie Crump – Successcycling.co.uk
  12. William Manfield-Yorke – Cycle Team OnForm
  13. Josh Williams – Clee Cycles
  14. Chris Pook – Rhino Velo Race Team
  15. Daniel Morris – HA&CC

In summary…very happy I got out of bed this morning and braved the conditions. Turned out to be not nearly as bad as the media made it out to be. I came away with a handful of points, and a handful of £ for my troubles, and I thoroughly enjoyed the race. It was fast (over 27mph average), flat (total elevation of 3 and a half feet) and very windy, just my kind of race.

Finally I wanted to say thank you to the race organisers for making the best out of a soggy, miserable day. Thanks to the marshals for keeping us safe on the road. And thanks to the staff back at HQ for the warm coffee and lovely cake.

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Cold Dark North Road Race at Oakenclough

Words by John MacKellar.

No need for alarms this morning, it was the sound of rain on car rooftops that woke me up at 6am. It was thick, heavy rain and each drop made a big splash as it hit the ground. Not long after and I was on my way to Oakenclough for the Cold Dark North Road Race. Oakenclough is a great course and part of me was looking forward to racing on it. The other part was unsure as to how I would cope in my first race with the 2nd cat riders of the season on a tough course. Strangely though, I was looking forward to racing in the rain.

At sign on, the weather remained as wet as first thing this morning, but the volunteers and organisers at Race HQ looked cheery despite the weather. On the drive, I’d pretty much decided what I was going to wear. I kept it simple, baselayer, arm-warmers, shorts and velotoze shoe covers. Legs out, as it was going to be hard. As I was putting my kit on, I saw team mate, Si Deplitch, head to sign on. There should have been four from Team Chronomaster at the race, but illness and rain had reduced us to two. 

Looking around at the rider briefing, the weather had also put a lot of the field off. There was still plenty of strong competition. They told us that we would in fact be doing 4.5 laps, not 5.5,  so about 80km. Team Crimson with 3 riders and Adam Hartley, winner of Bole Hill last week, were all present.

We set out from HQ and riders were attacking the flag as soon as it dropped. The first 4 or 5 km climbed up steadily and I wanted to position myself near the front because the race was clearly going to break up on the climb. Then there’s a zig-zag left-right and this had us slowing down on the way in and riders applying pressure on the way out. Now we were heading towards the top of the course, where the start finish was situated. 1 km from the top of the course there’s a left hander; the guys on the front went charging in, coming out of this corner I was too far back, maybe 30 riders down and working hard to make up ground. I could see Si a few wheels in front, as we were approaching the very steep kicker up to the finish line. The pace was high and this was a key moment in the race.

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The race strung out as it hits the steepest part of the course on lap 1.

On the steepest part of the climb I passed Si and my skinny frame was helping me to put pressure the others in my group. As I came over the start/finish line, I could see the head of the race and that there was a gap going. There were 3 riders in between. I sprinted hard over the top of the climb and on to the descent, still pedalling at 300w. I got on to that trio of  riders’ wheels as we headed on to the fastest part of the descent, with the front group just in sight.

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Descending was exciting in the northern weather. 

There was a short climb that broke up that descending group, and the head of the race had disappeared up the road, but I also saw that Si had made it into our 2nd group. We dropped down to the bottom of the course and were heading on to the 2nd lap when I heard one lad saying “take it steady, roll through easier, we’re not racing for anything. It’s just a training ride”. It was like he’d flicked a switch, I was still racing! The group in front of us was getting smaller every lap, riders that couldn’t handle the pace and others that didn’t want to stay in the soaking rain. So there was every chance that anyone who kept going could pick up points. But this comment had struck a nerve; I noted that it had come from someone who looked like they might struggle on the climbs, and it ensured that I would push extra hard as we went over the top of the climb.

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And that was what happened each lap, along with 2 or 3 strong looking riders  we applied a lot of pressure as we went over the summit and had the advantage of descending with much less spray in our faces, thus getting rid of riders each lap. Every so often we would catch a glimpse of a rider ahead, it give us a point to focus on and we chased them down. Some of them jumped in our group, others headed for an early shower.

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The steep climb on the penultimate lap. The composition of our group much changed by this climb; riders from in front absorbed and others ejected out the back.

At some point, Si had disappeared from my group so I was on my own. My friend on the training ride too. Before we knew it, we took the bell lap. I asked how many riders were in front. Ears too full of water to hear the reply. One more lap, one more effort up the climb. As we got to the bottom of the course, some wanted to try to save energy for the final kick and were sitting on. So the inevitable attacks came, I must have jumped on to 3 of these. It was the 4th that stuck and Sam Pugh (Salt Ayre Cog Set) rode away 2km from the finish.

I knew that our group of 7 would hit the climb together and I wanted to try and get as much of a head start on any sprinting for the line. I was 2nd or 3rd wheel as we hit the steepest section, then the sprinting began. Or everyone else began. My legs protested, the harder I tried the more they protested, and the other 6 riders all managed to pass me. In the end, I finished 18th and Si finished 20th. There weren’t many people at the finish, everyone here had raced hard and braved the wet conditions and not packed in. Each rider that came over the line receiving approval for just finishing.

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A couple of thank you’s. Firstly to the marshals that stood out on the course in rain, second to Ellen Isherwood for coming out and taking pics, I didn’t see you at all on the course. Thirdly to Cold Dark North for organising an event on a great course. Without local organisers we have to head further away in search of races, but why when all the good riding is here on our door step in the North.

Well done to race winner Rob Rogers (Team PB Performance).

You can check the race out here https://www.strava.com/activities/1736472095

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